The academic aspect of the Co-op Program calls for considerable commitment by the student. Students take online, writing-based courses during their work periods. The main academic assignment is to write a technical report, typically based on some aspect of the student's job experience. The Newly Hired Students section provides a glimpse of their academic expectations.
Supervisor's Signature on the Academic Report
The main responsibility of supervisors with regard to academic work is to read and sign the student's report to ensure that confidential information is not disclosed, as well as to make sure the technical content is accurate, as noted in the Confidentiality section. We suggest that students and supervisors establish reasonable response times toward the end of the semester. The student should give the supervisor enough time to check the report for problems, and the supervisor should allow time for the student to make corrections to the paper, if necessary, and still meet the assignment deadline.
Time extensions for reports are rarely given. The only valid excuse is if the employer is holding a report for some reason beyond the student's control, even though the student had made arrangements ahead of time. If the student did not make arrangements ahead of time, a late penalty will apply. It follows that the supervisor should let the student know if there are likely to be delays on his or her part, so that the student can find an alternative employer representative to review and sign off on the paper. If delays occur despite the student's best efforts, the student will ask the supervisor to telephone or email the student's Co-op Facilitator explaining the circumstances.
It is not the supervisor's responsibility to review or respond to questions about aspects of writing such as grammar, punctuation, and structure. Supervisors are most welcome to offer help in these areas, but the way the report is written is ultimately the student's concern, and students may ask their Co-op Facilitator if they have questions.
It should be noted that the research and writing for all academic work should occur on the student's own time, not company time, unless approved by the supervisor. In other words, the Co-op writing assignments are not seen as part of the job, although in many cases the report will describe a company project or job assignment.
For their main academic assignment, students write a report about what they are learning and doing at the company, so questions about confidentiality are likely to arise. To address any concerns, students are required to check with their supervisor early in the semester, at the time the report proposal needs to be approved. A confidentiality form is also discussed and signed at this time. As a follow-up, near the end of the semester, the supervisor reviews the final report to make sure that confidential information has not been disclosed. Thus, the student checks with the supervisor regarding confidentiality at least twice during the course of the semester.
In potentially sensitive cases, we advise the student to communicate with the supervisor while writing the preliminary report, rather than waiting until the final report has been written. The supervisor may want to offer the student guidelines about how much time is available for this type of intermediate review. In the rare case where a suitable company-related subject cannot be found, the student is permitted to write about an unrelated topic.
In addition to checking for confidentiality, we also ask the supervisor to watch for and have the student correct technical errors or inaccuracies.
The student will take the initiative for the confidentiality form, the report proposal, and the final report, and we ask the supervisor to help by responding in a timely way. Delays in signing the report can cause the student to get an Incomplete grade, and an Incomplete, in turn, can cause the student to lose financial aid or delay graduation. If more than one person is involved in checking confidentiality, it is especially important to move as quickly as possible. If the supervisor is likely to be away or too busy to review the final report by the date requested, we ask the supervisor to help the student make arrangements with another person at the company.